David Mitchell – the comedian and columnist, not the writer (whose book Cloud Atlas I have just started but abandoned in favour of Agatha Christie, though I’m sure it’s very good) – anyway, in case you didn’t know, David Mitchell has a regular video type thing called Soapbox where he rants about Stuff. Recently he talked about the abbreviation ‘lol’ (for laugh out loud, in case you also didn’t know that).
And he’s in favour of it. His argument is that lol fulfils a specific need – to say “yes, that was funny” in as few characters as possible. He adds that this does not excuse the use of smilies (smileys?) as they just indicate that the writer has not tried hard enough to make their joke funny in the first place.
My problem here is as follows:
1. I like David Mitchell enormously. I spent most of last summer while I was on maternity leave watching him on various panel shows over the head of a breastfeeding baby, and ever since then I have had a sense of connection with him in that way you sometimes get with celebrities. And I know someone who was at Cambridge with him, so it’s almost as if we’re close personal friends. One of us even follows the other on Twitter.
2. He’s right. I can’t refute his arguments. Lol does serve a specific and needed purpose. Smileys, or smilies, shouldn’t be necessary if you’re confident that what you’re saying is funny.
3. And yet I continue to like the smiley and dislike ‘lol’. That’s the way I’ve been since the invention of both and mere reason isn’t about to change my mind.
Therefore what will probably happen is that I stop using smileys/ies or at least cut down to a couple of puffs a day. But I won’t start using ‘lol’ because it’s just not me. So basically, I’ve lost one form of expression and failed to gain another. Damn you, David Mitchell and your diabolical persuasiveness. Unlol. Or unsmiley. Or something.